The Olympic dream hit Laser sailor Charlie Buckingham when he was a kid.
It’s now a dream that has come true twice.
Buckingham says he was about 10 years old when those lofty dreams started. He didn’t make the cut in 2012 to make his first U.S. Olympic Team, but he did achieve his goal four years later for the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Now he wants more. He committed to a full-time campaign for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 following his 11th-place finish in Rio.
Sunday, in Australian waters, he locked down his spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team after an 18th-place finish at the Laser world championships. Boosted by a second-place finish in the penultimate fleet race, Buckingham earned the Olympic spot ahead of U.S. teammate Chris Barnard in the two-stage process.
Buckingham had secured a Laser quota spot for the U.S. with an 11th-place finish at the 2018 World Sailing Championships, and he entered this week’s competition in Melbourne, Australia, with an 18-position lead ahead of American teammate Chris Barnard following the 2019 worlds. But the final stretch toward claiming that Olympic spot did not come easily.
Barnard had five top-10 finishes in four days of sailing this week, including a fifth-place finish, and narrowed the gap to seven places. Entering Sunday’s final day of competition, the difference was 11.
Buckingham locked things up with a ninth-place finish in Sunday’s first fleet race and a second place in the next.
In Tokyo, Buckingham will attempt to do something no other U.S. Laser sailor has achieved: win an Olympic medal. The Laser class, which is a single-handed dinghy, made its Olympic debut in 1996.
Buckingham won a bronze medal in the 2017 ISAF world cup final and is a two-time college sailor of the year for Georgetown University.
He is the fifth sailor to join the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, following Nacra 17 team Riley Gibbs and Anna Weis, and 49erFX sailors Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.